Golfers who know about the new Valley Course at Els Club Desaru Coast in Johor also know about the attached price tag – RM750 for weekends and RM650 for weekdays. Some shudder at the exorbitance, citing better value for money courses in Bali, Bintan and Bangkok surrounds. Others shrug, pointing to the S$480 (approx. RM1,500) green fee that a premium course in Singapore, such as the Sentosa Golf Club, commands. Yet, like all dear purchases whose value can only be ascertained once experienced, the Valley Course has to be played to be appreciated. Especially now, when, bare months into its launch and relatively unknown to the world, golfers can practically have the course to themselves.
Designed by Vijay Singh, the 18-hole championship Valley Course, with its scenic undulating terrain, complements Els Club Desaru’s relatively flatter Ocean Course. The inclusion of a whopping 175 bunkers, multiple elevated greens, and split fairways, however, will make even a confident golfer double down on his swing. “When you feel too much of a star, this is the place to go, because it brings you down to earth,” says one Singaporean player, a chief of a specialist engineering firm who nipped over for the weekend to try the course.
“This is a one-of-a-kind golf course that will reward golfers for good play but penalise wayward shots,” says Singh on his first time collaboration with legendary golfer Ernie Els. “I also wanted to create something that would leave golfers with an image of each hole imprinted in their mind.” The rationale is that memorable holes make for a memorable course.
At Valley, the spectacular hole, the one golfers would want to play twice, is number 14. The par-5 hole features the rare split fairway that forces players to choose between their short and long games, challenging bunker positions and an elevated green. Technicalities aside, the landscape is breathtakingly pretty, with the rolling emerald of the fairway fringed by trees and accented by a stream.
Where other courses boast cliff-overlooking-ocean views, Valley’s moneyed vistas lie in its undulating geography, which creates visual interest. Says Singh upon seeing the site for the first time: “Even though it was densely covered in vegetation, the elevation changes gave us lots of routing opportunities, which as a designer, gives you the challenge and prospect of creating something unique.”
To enhance the experience, the club provides sumptuous locker rooms and state of the art buggies that can be driven on the fairway. The vehicles also come with a GPS-enabled screen that shows golfers the distance to the green, and allow them to order food and email their scores home. A meeting space that can accommodate 120 people allows for corporate and social events.
Says Singh: “We wanted to create something that sparked interest in Desaru Coast and put the destination on the map.” The course is in its infancy, the latest to have been added to the Desaru Coast destination development that sees the construction of hotels and resorts such as Westin, Hard Rock and Aman. An Anantara is planned for 2019.